HC Deb 23 July 1923 vol 167 cc13-4
21. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether ex-Private Joseph Dowling, late of the Connaught Rangers, is still detained in prison; whether he is detained by His Majesty's Government or by the Government of the Irish Free State; whether any other prisoners have not been released under the general amnesty; and why this man is still being detained in prison?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness)

I have been asked to reply. The answer to the first three parts of the question is that Joseph Dowling is still imprisoned in this country, in common with a few other soldiers similarly found guilty of grave offences committed during the War. There has been no general amnesty for such offences so far as the Army is concerned, although in fact no man is still serving any sentence for a purely military offence committed during the War. As regards the last part, Dowling was convicted by General Court Martial on 18th July, 1918, on three charges, the gravest charges on which in time of war a soldier can be convicted. The charges were as follow:

  1. 1. When a prisoner of war, voluntarily serving with the enemy, by joining and serving in the "Irish Brigade."
  2. 2. When a prisoner of war, voluntarily aiding the enemy by persuading other British prisoners of war to join the armed forces of the enemy.
  3. 3. When a prisoner of war, voluntarily aiding the enemy by going to Ireland in a German submarine with 14 the object of aiding the King's enemies in prosecuting the War against His Majesty.
He was sentenced to death, but the sentence of death was commuted to one of penal servitude for life, and that sentence he is still serving. The amnesty which the hon. and gallant Member has in mind is presumably that which has in effect been extended both by the British and Irish Governments to the undisguised and regular supporters of the other party in our late domestic troubles. It is, however, obvious that a serving British soldier who not only leaves his own service, but who joins and takes an active part in that of an external enemy in a time of national peril cannot be placed in any such category. His Majesty's Government therefore, after giving the most careful consideration to the matter, have reluctantly come to the conclusion that they cannot advise His Majesty to vary the sentence imposed in this case.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that, while no one wishes to minimise the extent of these crimes, many people who have done much worse things in Ireland—murdered British officers in their beds, and so on—have been liberated?

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS

None of the crimes to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman refers took place on active service, and I do not think any of these peace-time crimes can compare in gravity with that of a man who deliberately goes over to the enemy, and tries to seduce other prisoners of war from their allegiance.